E is for—Enemy
It took me almost the whole of A Book of Tongues to decide that I was, in fact, going to bring Tezcatlipoca (the Smoking Mirror, Mexica Trickster god of magic) on board as Ixchel's not-exactly-opposite number, but once I did, things fell into place with surprising ease. One thing I've learned to trust about my process is that just as things always change alchemically while making their way from here to there, what we originally think are mistakes are sometimes plot twists in disguise. So when I realized—as a reviewer recently kindly pointed out—that I'd initially mistaken the Mayan goddess Ixchel (goddess of the moon, of the rainbow, of childbirth) for the Mayan goddess Ixtab (She of the Rope, Mother of Hanged Men), what occurred to me as a way to “fix” this assumption was the idea of Ixchel having “eaten” Ixtab (along with a bunch of other Mexica and Mayan goddesses), consuming her essence vampirically, the way living hexes do with other hexes. With that in mind, it turns out that “The Enemy”—or T-Cat, as I call him—is already acknowledged by Mexica mythology to be four gods in one: Xipe Totec (god of corn, of new growth, Our Lord the Flayed One), Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent or God Who Dies), Tezcatlipoca (as she wrote) and Huitzilopochtli (god of royalty, of lightning, of war)...and by the end of A Rope of Thorns, we'd seen all these aspects represented except one. So Chess Pargeter, having completed his Xipe Totec cycle with a self-sacrifice so huge it brings an entire town back to life, enters A Tree of Bones as a man divided: His soul is stuck downstairs in the Underworld, while his body struts around being occupied by Tezcatlipoca-as-Huitzilopochtli, blue skin, Red Weed underpants, lightning-snake whip and all. So the Enemy becomes the real enemy, one more wild card added to the deck, both on and off the battlefield; untrustworthy by nature, but always interesting. Just the way a Trickster should be.
F is for—Faith
Like a lot of people not raised with any sort of religion, I find Fundamentalist Christianity both fascinating and slightly scary. But seeing how I'd already had Nazarene preacher-turned-Sheriff Mesach Love rampaging 'cross the landscape as a secondary villain in A Rope, I felt it was high time for someone of similar philosophical leanings to be developed as a character who was complicated and human yet essentially positive. This, then, is why Mesach's widow Sophronia Love starts A Tree having already assumed the position of Bewelcome township's unofficial Joan of Arc; by showing how her compassion, sense of responsibility, and rectitude counterbalance the ruthlessness of ostensible “good guy” Allan Pinkerton, we retroactively get some idea not only what kind of man Love must once have been and why the Bewelcomites followed them out here in the first place, but why faith and devotion were such driving forces in settling the West generally. In the Hexslinger-'verse, of course, faith—a powerful, deliberate commitment to something “higher”—can be used both to actively neutralize hexation or (if the faith itself allows this, as with Grandma's Diné traditions) support and enhance its effects; the parallels between the commitment of true faith, and the commitment of the binding Hex City Oath, are completely deliberate, eventually playing out for Sophy in an intensely personal and shocking way...
Tomorrow: G and H!